I was reading a post from a prominent social media “expert” providing advice for lawyers using social media. In the post, among other advice, the expert recommended that lawyers look through twitter posts for people with problems and then offer to solve their problems by contacting the individuals via twitter. I stopped and slowly re-read that advice – again and again – to make sure I had not missed an important phrase or word like “we do NOT recommend”.
My cause for pause relates to the fact that this advice directly defies Rule 7.3 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers (among other similar state rules) that states very simply:
“A lawyer shall not by in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic contact solicit professional employment from a prospective client when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain, unless the person contacted: (1) is a lawyer; or (2) has a family, close personal, or prior professional relationship with the lawyer.” (emphasis added)
This is an important lesson in the world of counseling on social media issues. We must be aware not only of laws, rules and regulations that come from federal, state and local governments – but also relevant codes of conduct. Lawyers, as well as doctors, real estate agents, medical professionals and other workers are subject to professional and ethical codes of conduct. The use of social media is just a new form of communication that still has to adhere to those codes.